We all know to slather on sunscreen when we go out, and cosmetics companies are adding UV protection to skin care products and makeup, so you can look good and ward off skin cancer.
But do cosmetics with SPF really offer protection, or are they giving users a false sense of safety? Dermatologists say these products can help but not to forgo actual sunscreen.
"My feeling is that these products are beneficial. The more sun protection, the better," said Dr. Suzanne Friedler board-certified dermatologist of the American Academy of Dermatology at Advanced Dermatology PC in Manhattan, who advocates using them with sunscreen.
If you're going to pick a cosmetic with UV protection, Dr. Carolyn Jacob, board-certified dermatologist and medical director at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, prefers those with SPF 30, "although SPF 15 is better than nothing."
If your day consists of simply commuting to your office job and being inside all day, you could get by with wearing moisturizer and makeup with SPF protection, Jacob said. This assumes you're in a car or taking public transit that doesn't take much more than an hour.
Application of SPF-containing products is important, and it's why Dr. Alix J. Charles, board-certified dermatologist at the DuPage Medical Group, recommends combining UV-protection cosmetics with an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. For the face, neck and ears, users need about a teaspoon of sunscreen for proper application and protection.
"A foundation that has an SPF factor alone is probably not going to give you the kind of SPF protection that you were hoping for. ... To get an adequate amount of SPF protection from, say, a foundation or a makeup product, you have to have it cover completely, evenly over your entire face, and it would almost look like a makeup mask," Charles said.
When using moisturizers with SPF protection, let them soak into the skin for about 10 minutes before your usual makeup routine, he said.
Moisturizers and makeup with UV protection come in both mineral-based and chemical-based formulas. Friedler and Jacob prefer the mineral-based formulas, which use titanium oxide and/or zinc oxide, although Charles said it's a matter of preference for users. In the past, mineral-based sunscreens had a whitish appearance on the skin (think lifeguard nose), although Friedler and Jacob say the formulations have improved. Sometimes chemical-based sunscreens can irritate skin.
For a moisturizer, Jacob said she personally uses Journee Bio-restorative Day Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF30 by NeoCutis ($151, dermstore.com) which also contains hydrating hyaluronic acid in addition to sunscreen. A drugstore version popular with dermatologists is Eucerin Moisturizing Face Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30 ($7.89, target.com)
Many companies make foundations with SPF to match every skin tone, such as Clinque's Even Better Makeup ($29 www.sephora.com) and the just-launched Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 25 Sunscreen from La Prairie ($195, www.laprairie.com), which comes in compact form, making it portable.
What if you're going to be out during the day, going to a kid's ballgame or attending a street festival? It can be a pain or downright impossible to reapply UV-based makeup every two hours, as recommended for proper sun protection.
To remedy that, the dermatologists all suggest powder-based sunscreens that can be applied over makeup. Both Friedler and Jacob recommend Colorescience, which makes several versions of its Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 ($65, colorescience.com). Another brand popular with dermatologists is Sun Defense Minerals from Eminence Organic Skin Care ($58 eminenceorganics.com). The dermatologists say these powders are cosmetically elegant, so they won't mess up your makeup.
Jacob said to keep in mind that mineral-based powders will mix with your skin's natural oils, allowing the SPF disperse a bit during the day, so stick to the two-hour rule and reapply as needed.
Friedler said she also likes Replenix Sheer Physical Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($41.50, dermstore.com), a spray-on moisturizing sunscreen. For regular sunscreen, Friedler recommends Blue Lizard because the bottle turns blue when it comes in contact with UV rays, reminding users to reapply.
Don't forget your lips. Jacob said lipstick-wearers usually have some protection built in since many lipsticks have titanium oxide as their base, but for those who don't, be sure to use some sort of SPF-containing lip balm. Options include Nivea Recovery Medicated Lip Care ($2.49, jet.com) and Sonya Dakar's Lip Shield Natural Lip Balm ($12, sonyadakar.com)
"The No. 1 place to develop squamous cell skin cancers is the lower lip because it gets so much sun exposure," she said.
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